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Review: Kalmah - 12 Gauge
12 Gauge

Label: SpineFarm Records
Year released: 2010
Duration: 42:57
Tracks: 9
Genre: Melodic Death Metal


Review online: July 21, 2010
Reviewed by: Lior "Steinmetal" Stein
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Rated 4.26/5 (85.22%) (46 Votes)

A shot from this shotgun will leave you to live another day in the cold swamps where you'll hear another album by Finnish Melodic Death Metal band Kalmah ("To the Grave" in Finnish.) The Kokko House and gang have unleashed another shell from their gun which goes by the name of 12 Gauge, the choosing of the title perhaps not that random.

On occasion the 12 gauge shotgun has been used to end a life. Kalmah, on the other hand, continue to deal with the themes that have served them throughout their career; local swamps, Finnish history and personal life struggles. 12 Gauge exists between hard life and cold death and, like many of their musical brethren, channels the cold landscapes of their homeland.

In musical terms, Kalmah have upgraded themselves to a new level of heaviness and brutality. The riffs on this album, as opposed to their past releases, does not find them wandering into Children of Bodom territory, as did the early Norther albums. In the past, Kalmah has been categorized as Melodic Death Metal, although the band is a bit more complicated than that. Kalmah is extreme, no doubt, but they sound more like Power Metal with elements of Thrash and neo-classical thrown in. Moreover, the keyboards, always a defining part of Kalmah's sound, have begun to dominate over the guitars, although Antti Kokko's lead guitar work still serves up bombastic melodies similar to Helloween-meets-Maiden-while-taking-steroids. The "side-by-side" fusion of the keyboards and guitars actually make the music grander.

Spine chillers such as "Rust Never Sleeps," "One of Fail" and "Sacramentum" showcase this fusion. The latter song presents some cosmic solo playing on the keys (well done, Marco Sneck). However, despite the band's great work on the music, there are some let downs.

Pekka Kokko, co-founder/guitarist, has served as the band's vocalist from the beginning. Even considering his talents as a mid-low growler, he really didn't amaze on this album. At times, it seems like he should have stayed with a mid-range growl vs. going with a lower register. Kalmah also has some good lyrics, but it would even better to be able to understand them.

The production is also a source of confusion. There are some moments on several songs when low volume melodies can be heard. It's unclear if those were meant to be way back in the mix or if they were overlooked. Either way, they sound good, but you really have to stretch your hearing, or grab your headphones, to enjoy them.

12 Gauge has a number of good qualities that will help the novice get into Kalmah. Other highlights, besides those already mentioned, include "Better Not to Tell," "12 Gauge" and "Bullets are Blind." The bonus track, for those lucky to find an expanded version of the album, is a Thin Lizzy cover, "Cold Sweat," that the band do a nice job on. Go for it stone cold sober and fetch yourself a Kalmah.

More about Kalmah...
Review: 12 Gauge (reviewed by Christopher Foley)
Review: For the Revolution (reviewed by Christopher Foley)
Review: Kalmah (reviewed by Luxi Lahtinen)
Review: Palo (reviewed by Bruno Medeiros)
Review: Seventh Swamphony (reviewed by Sargon the Terrible)
Review: Swamplord (reviewed by Christian Renner)
Review: Swampsong (reviewed by Christian Renner)
Interview with guitarist Antti Kokko on November 3, 2001 (Interviewed by Christian Renner)
Interview with vocalist/guitarist Pekka Kokko and guitarist Antti Kokko on September 7, 2021 (Interviewed by Luxi Lahtinen)
Interview with guitarist Antti Kokko on April 9, 2023 (Interviewed by Luxi Lahtinen)
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